Disruptive innovation and the creation of new technology markets have been at the heart of what Cisco does since 1984 when our founders pioneered the first multi-protocol router. Twenty eight years later, Cisco continues to obsess about finding better ways to solve networking and communications problems.
We invest the bulk of our resources in enhancing the platforms, protocols and devices that our customers already know and trust, as you might expect. However, we’re also continually looking for new product and service ideas that can entirely disrupt the status quo in existing markets, or open up new markets by solving problems with better, more convenient, or simply cheaper approaches to problem solving.
It’s in that spirit that Cisco has introduced the Technology Fund, a new multi-million dollar innovation fund designed to nurture disruptive ideas inside Cisco that are currently nowhere on the company’s radar…but which might become another TelePresence, Catalyst or Jabber ten years from now.
With a multi-billion dollar R&D budget, why does Cisco need a separate Technology Fund, I hear you ask.
As Joel Bion, SVP of Advanced Research and Development at Cisco, and overseer of the new Tech Fund, puts it: “If you’re the general manager of a business unit at a large company, you’re constantly making choices about developing features that can generate revenues almost immediately, or with investing in the development of products and services that may not generate revenue for years, or which may never generate revenue.”
Both are important, of course, but the Cisco Technology Fund ensures that long term breakthroughs are not sacrificed in the pursuit of near term revenues. It does so by providing senior Cisco engineers with the funds, resources, equipment and people needed to explore and investigate those ideas which may still be years away from being ready for incubation in Cisco’s Emerging Technologies organization or from integration into existing business units.
In the video below, Joel Bion explains more about the Fund and how it works.
Network programmability has certainly captured the imagination of the industry. Efforts by Open Networking Foundation (ONF) and early adopters have helped demonstrate the promise of the technology and captured a lot of attention and it’s been very useful to get attention to a real problem. I simply love it when structured assumptions are challenged and new ideas are found to be useful. But, over the last couple of years, I have seen my share of “magic happens here” presentations and being someone known to enjoy a glass of BGP or MPLS; I’ve become accustomed to the devil hiding behind the details. Dust off your wand and fire up the espresso maker because it is going to take a concerted effort across the industry, involvement of a number of SDOs, as well as some new thinking to truly deliver on the promise of programmable networks and an open network environment.
Looking ahead, one of the most basic objectives is to move beyond the current box-centric/box-specific approach and instead create an environment where applications and services can customize and specify infrastructure requirements (i.e. policy, topology, features) via a set of standardized interfaces and control points. This approach allows the creation of feedback loops between previously “closed” elements of the middleware infrastructure that allows free-flowing interaction and exchange of information such as state, events, and policy. While one benefit of this approach is to improve the status quo, the real benefit becomes the ability to create innovative new service delivery models that are not possible today. The goal is to enable control points for services, appliances and networking both physical and virtual. Add to the mix programmable interfaces to collaboration and content technologies and monetization API management and now we are getting somewhere.
Moving beyond the Status Quo
As discussed earlier, visibility between multiple layers of a hierarchical network topology has become table stakes to deliver a network with service assurance. Virtual networks must also work across multi-vendor and multi-functional equipment while managing ‘state’ across optical, transport, trunk, virtual and service layers. So, as cool and fast as it is for a sysadmin to build virtual overlays; it’s impossible to guarantee service delivery constraints without having netops having full awareness of the network that they are to run over. Enabling these two critical groups of engineers to be able to work seamless together is the target that we are aiming for.
In the U.S., our two major political parties are kicking off their national conventions over the next two weeks, where they will formally nominate their candidate for President of the United States. Each convention will draw tens of thousands of delegates, volunteers, and media, as well as a global audience second only to the London Olympics this year.
The 2012 conventions will be the most connected, most social, most covered ever — making the proceedings as seamless as possible and more accessible to people across the country and around the globe. At the Republican National Committee’s “Convention Without Walls,” voters can get live video and highlights direct from the convention floor — following the convention sessions as they unfold. At the Democratic National Convention, wireless access points across seven convention-related locations will give staff and guests complete mobility without losing connectivity. And delegates at both conventions will use IP-phonesto directly connect with party leaders during vote counts.
What makes it all happen? Communications and collaboration solutions and networked infrastructure extensive enough to support a medium size corporation, provided by Cisco, at both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention.
We are proud to be engaged in these important civic events and in helping bring the proceedings directly to voters. (In addition to deploying our network, we will continue our ongoing media partnership with CNN. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and members of the CNN Political Team will use WebEx for an interactive insiders chat about the presidential race live from the 2012 Republication and Democratic Conventions.)
Hosted unified communications allow businesses to bring converged voice, mobile and data services to every user in their organisation. It’s the natural next step for those organisations moving to a virtualised, cloud-based environment. Organisations will be able to consume their telephony, voicemail, conferencing and unified messaging technologies on a utility-based, per-user pricing model.
Welcome to the new “We’re Listening” blog series! The goal of this blog series is to create a useful forum for you to learn about the ways Cisco is improving the experience for our customers and partners. And to this end, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to tell us how we’re doing.
Like all companies, Cisco isn’t perfect. As Vice President of the Customer Assurance team at Cisco, I know this all too well. My team has responsibility for resolving the most critical customer issues across all functions and geographies, and we also own customer listening around Cisco services and support. Combine that with our responsibility for running Cisco’s call centers, and you’ve got a team with a close ear to your feedback—the good and the bad. What we’ve heard from you is that there are some significant issues we need to fix.